This is something that has crept through my mind many times because it's something we still deal with a year and a half after Sgt's return home from Iraq. I've posted before about seeing a counselor before he came home in an effort to try to get myself together to be able to help him with whatever we may encounter. It worked, to a degree. But there are just some things I can't do to help him and the only thing I can do is stand by him in hopes he'll come to me. When the "honeymoon" period ended, it ended. It was rough but I'm very fortunate in that he never took his anger or aggressions out on me; he has never laid so much as a finger on me. New Year's '06 was the first time I saw the effects of being in a war zone. People on the street behind us were shooting off fireworks and he shouted "DOWN! NOW!" I was in the back bedroom and the tone and volume of his voice scared me and I went running. He was in the living room and had the most "empty" look on his face. But what was "empty" to me was him in combat/survival mode. It took about 45 seconds for him to get his wits about him and he apologized for scaring me. I told him no worries and retreated to the bedroom to finish what I was doing but instead I cried. Sgt. came home with no physical scars but the emotional ones were slowly showing and I felt helpless. Truly 1000% helpless. I knew there was more to him than what was showing on the outside. His mannerisms had changed. I often found him speaking to me the same way he gave orders to his men. I tried my best to not correct him but there was one day that his anger got the best of him and he yelled at me. Now, we fight and have arguments but this was pure yelling unlike anything I've ever heard from him before. For the first time, he actually heard himself and he wept. Not so much because of what he said but more because of how he made me feel. He finally saw that there was something else going on inside and felt out of control.
To this day I can still look in his eyes and know that something is going on. It's not all war related but there have been so many residual effects it's become more of our daily life than I ever imagined. I know it sounds naive but this was new territory for us, as it is for so many, and a learning process and we continue to learn from it.
As we hang in limbo for another deployment, I try to be proactive and more conscious of the way we approach things and how I handle them. I've learned to be more sensitive to some things and less to others. I often put on my "big girl" pants and roll with the punches. One thing we are doing differently is we talk through issues that arise completely and not just enough to put a band-aid on it. Those band-aids cause more problems in the end than they solve in the beginning. It's tough to do sometimes. He was builder his last tour but since he has changed to the National Guard, he is a combat engineer dealing with IEDs and the likes, which is what he did when he was a Marine.
His deployment did a lot of things for our relationship on many different levels. On somethings it brought us closer together others not so much. One thing it did bring to light was how important we are to each other. Absence made our hearts grow fonder but reintegrating strained it and I would be lying if I said it didn't. I wish I had words of wisdom for spouses who are getting ready to go through this for the first time, especially new wives. Not that it's all that different but being newly married brings with it so many things to deal with anyway. I hang on to the words of the spouses who are on their 2nd and 3rd deployments. Communication is key and, for us, pride needs to be checked at the door.
The Sgt. L family is a team. We laugh together. We cry together. We irritate each other. We love each other. We support each other. We talk to each other. I still stomp my feet and slam doors but when I open it up, Sgt. is there for me, waiting with the patience of Job. It has taken a year and a half to learn to deal with things and we're still learning and we'll forever be tweaking our relationship.
The milspouses, moms/dads and girlfriends/fiances are my rocks my strengths. I lurk more than I comment but I have found I'm able to take something from each of you to help me on my path. The bird's eye views from our soldiers and vets also help keep me in check. Your view is just as important and I learn just as much from you. I truly hope to be able to meet some of you in person next year. You are all amazing and I'm humbled to be part of such a tightly knit community.